REVIEW: BlackBox’s Ninja Kaidan #1

Instead of cutting a cake to celebrate its fifth anniversary, BlackBox Comics is slicing and dicing into the action with Ninja Kaidan #1. Created by author Eric Palicki and artist Lucas Meyer, alongside colorist Michael Bartolo and letterer Dezi Sienty, this new series holds the promise of martial arts fun with a roundhouse kick of the supernatural thrown in for good measure. Naturally, ghosts and ninjas go together like coffee and donuts, but what happens when there's more of one than the other?

Ninja Kaidan #1 introduces Yuki Snow, a former soldier who became the Yokai Consolidated CEO after the passing of his father. He also happens to own a high-tech suit. But this isn't just another Iron Man-inspired stealth suit, as this specific armor allows him to see and interact with ghosts. After one of his tests brings him face to face with his deceased father, Yuki is inspired to dig deeper into the secret of the Kaidan armor, which opens the door to a load of additional questions for the paranormal warrior.

The first issue doesn't quite storm the gates in terms of the action. Instead, Palicki slowly introduces the key players of the story and focuses on establishing a mysterious mood. Much like Mike Flanagan's The Haunting of Bly Manor, Ninja Kaidan #1 simultaneously tells two types of ghost stories. As the comic progresses it becomes clear that Yuki needs to face his demons both externally and internally. While Palicki could have added more to this first issue, there's still enough excitement to tantalize and intrigue readers.

Meyer's art brings a razor-sharp quality to the panels. It's slick, modern, and eye-catching. Without a doubt, Meyer's illustrations pop with Bartolo's color choices, which feature mostly a collection of purples, pinks, blacks, and grays. It's difficult not to draw complimentary comparisons to Christos Gage and Tomás Giorello's run on Valiant's Ninjak, especially considering the similar color schemes and the presence of armor-clad ninjas.

Considering all of the lead-up and imagery presented in the previews, Ninja Kaidan #1 is full of surprises. Readers might be disappointed by the lack of action here since there's only one page featuring any sort of fisticuffs. While the chances are high there will be more martial arts mayhem on the horizon, it does feel like a peculiar choice. After all, fans of ninja stories are looking for action. If the second issue doesn't up the ante in a big way and focus on martial arts more than the supernatural, the title might risk alienating its core audience.

In terms of the paranormal elements of the story, Ninja Kaidan #1 delivers on its end of the bargain. It's still difficult to determine who Yuki Snow is or if he's even likable as a lead character since this introduction focuses more on the world around him than on the protagonist of the story. But Palicki has stated that this is the "kookiest" story he's ever written, so this could merely be the calm before the storm. Just as long as the ninja element isn't forgotten.

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